(See a description of the #433rds project here.)
programmed to receive
Our handyman likes to call the toilet “the commode,” and it makes me happy every time he does it. He lies a lot: about when he’s coming back, about how much things cost, about being sick. (Heart attack one week, cancer another–he doesn’t do things by halves. Says he’s jaded, says he drinks 16 V8s a day.)
I’m talking in present-tense even though it’s been months since he’s visited. The bathroom is done and I miss him a little every time I look at the uneven plane of the floor.
I miss him enough, despite not liking him much, that I decided it meant I needed people. If I’m lonely—and I’m not sure that’s what this is—go to the library stacks to work around other bodies. So I did. It was perfect. Then a young man sat down at my table in a nostalgic mood. He was playing “Hotel California” on his iPhone, loud enough that I could hear its tinny strains through his headphones. By the fifth replay the air had become a Tiffany-twisted hellscape of wheedled beats.
Luckily the library’s bathroom is nicely architected. Solid, five stalls. Anteroom with a cushioned bench. Full-length mirror. Soap. Bathrooms are like fax machines in that technology should, by any reasonable definition of progress, have evolved beyond them, but nothing has replaced their almost unhackable concreteness. Their longevity is Victorian. It’s queenly. They’re better at what they do than headphones, and the few high-tech improvements we’ve attempted—circulating plastic on seats, automatic flushes, hand dryers–only mar a perfect thing. They’re singular and virtuosic, saxophones in the orchestra of rooms.
When I returned, the young man was packing his things to go. I could have stayed—the window light was beautiful, the stacks were full, some Fanny Burney letters were tempting me—but enmity is a point of connection, however marginal. We left together.